Lance in 2013

The usual video highlights of all the good in the year:

Now Lance's year in review.  Spoiler alert- the corgi is awesome.

Lance started the year with 1 lowly UDX leg from 2012 and was just starting to gain confidence in the B classes.  I had also just begun a get rid of the cookies campaign after attending the Denise Fenzi seminar in December 2012.

Wow, did we have a great year!  Lance picked up his very first OTCH points in January and then slowly accumulated more and more.  A bit of some problems hit us when of course his sit stay problem re occured.  Knock on wood, Lance has now done 13 of the last 14 sits, with 8 in a row.   He rocked the Corgi specialty in October and then decided to almost give me a heart attack as he pulled off a 199 and high in trial at a big show a few weeks ago!  We finished the year with a total of 8 UDX legs, 35 OTCH points, 4 wins, and his OM1 title.

I credit a lot of our success to the huge increase in personal play and decrease in cookie dependence.  The Problem Solving class I took online from Denise Fenzi and Nancy Little also helped a lot in fixing his finishes.

Other accomplishments this year in obedience include his UDX-C and OTCH-C in CDSP (a versatility type title).  And of course he continues to be the happiest obedience dog ever.

Lance and I were going to trial more in agility this year, but that didn't happen.  We started the year with 1 Q each in elite regular, jumpers, and chances and my goal was to get as close to the NATCH as possible.

I'm really pleased with how far we progressed in how little trials.  Lance completed the last 2 Q's needed for his Open Versatility title and even got his Elite Versatility title this past weekend. He has 21 out of 23 needed regular Q's, 13 out of 13 jumpers, and 8 out of 13 chances.  We went from not really having the distance skills needed in elite chances, to me being fairly confident at our ability to go for it.  Our qualifying rate in chances is still pretty low, but our distance and teamwork skills are definitely there now!

I didn't continue Lance's jump work program like I wanted to, but it also hasn't been a necessity.  Lance still stutters, especially towards the end of the day, but for the most part is loving jumping 4 inches.

:(  We did almost nothing.  Beginning of the year I started out strong and was working on several new tricks.  Last 2/3rds of the year I did absolutely squat.
1. Shaking head no: I so wanted this trick!  Lance already knew to move his head over his left shoulder so the plan was to teach the other direction and then switch back and forth. We struggled.  I got the right shoulder, mostly, but I certainly didn't get switching back and forth. Instead I got repeated twitches in one direction.  It's awkward.

2. Walking in slippers: Kinda done. I got stand in shoes, if it's the right type.  Otherwise I got squish the opening and frustratedly stomp.

3. Penguin-forwards: In the past I got beg and hop backwards.  I wanted forwards.  I mainly got barking.  But sometimes I get a few hops.  Corgi says this was hard.

4. Paw alternations, quickly: Check!!!  Totally nailed this one.  He does cute hops back and forth.  And gets mad and barks if I make him do it to much.

Goals for 2014:
1. Get the UDX!!!! Only 2 more double Q's needed!
2. Increase our average score in open and utility. Hoping for consistent greatness rather than moments of brilliance mixed with moments of *ahem* much crowd appeal.  His current ave from the last 8 Q's in open is a 196.  From the same time period in utility (september) he got 5 q's and an average of 190.5
3. Keep working on fronts and finishes, straight go outs, good glove pivots with no auto-marking from Lance, and decreasing his barking during obedience.
4. Get his NATCH in agility!
5. Give UKI a try as there will be a massive increase from 1 local trial to 4.  And he can jump 4 inches!


The Bestest Agility Trial Ever!

Vito today gave me the best present ever.  Had a NADAC agility trial this weekend and Vito didn't let Sad Toller make an appearance even once.  He was insanely happy and had moments where he DECIDED TO RUN on every single course.  Trial Vito got to be merged with Practice Vito for many, many moments.  

I had a blast.  I tried very hard to remain super aggressive in my handling of Vito and I'm pretty sure there were more blind crosses in one run than I've done all weekend before.  It can be difficult to figure out how to avoid rear crosses in some NADAC courses, but I pulled out my super cape and hauled butt to make certain he didn't have to do any.  I almost succeeded in being 100% free of rear crosses for him (outside of chances forced rears for the distance) until the very last course of the weekend, touch no go, I chickened out after I went in deeper than I planned after his running dogwalk and decided to just rear cross the tunnel.  
Best video of runs ever!

Vito ended up going 5.5 Q's out of 8.  Silly knocked bar for a half point Q in regular on day 1, and then of course he didn't qualify on either chances course.  But even on the distance chances he did an amazing effort.  On Saturday Vito actually did a tiny re-direct out the jump after the dogwalk and continued after a rear cross to go out one more obstacle.  And Vito not only did a rear cross on Sunday's challenge, but he continued on his own and did his very first tandem turn in a trial!

Lance also had a fabulous weekend. 8 out of 10 Q's for the weekend.  Naughty moments for him were completely blowing off the weaves his first run of the weekend that had them, and popping out of them his first run with weaves on day 2.  He also sailed off to a far far away off course hoop at one point.  Other than that I take blame for his 1 NQ in chances on Saturday.  He did the distance challenge beautifully despite my sudden switch in handling to a person who doesn't move at all.  Lance slowed down, but did it.  And then didn't do the easy dogwalk/tunnel discrimination as he hesitantly stepped onto the dogwalk closer to me.  I'm not sure why my feet were frozen when I had room left to move.  

His jumping looked great, even on Sunday's jumpers course when he was starting to get tired.

I had such a great weekend I'm not even going to comment on the barrels :)  Not even on the extra weird non wrapping of said barrel on the Touch n Go course.


Vito Friday Night CDSP

The Toller had one last CDSP obedience trial of the year.  Still sticking with Open C to help him gain confidence.

Overall I am very pleased with how he did.  Vito was very focused and happy to work with me.  Not quite the level of edginess I typically like working him in, but still a happy toller.

Beautiful, beautiful ring entrance and set up.  Nice drive going into the ring, immediate set up in heel, and 100% eye contact as I took off the leash.
First exercise was the drop on recall which Vito immediately failed as he didn't actually drop.  Or stop.  Figures that the one exercise I've actually been practicing with him he fails!  Ah well!  I just clap my hands and call him to come to me.

Heeling is next and I'm happy.  Set up nicely and nice oomph in that first step just like we've been practicing for months.  Fast time was almost immediately and while he did lose some momentum, he did a spectacular job considering how hard that is for him.  Bit of a bobble on the first halt immediately after the right turn, but recovered for a beautiful about turn, Lance should take note, and perfect rest of the pattern.

Broad jump I kinda tried something new, which of course is a neon sign of red flags.  I marked the jump so he knew it was there based on his last tripping over it experience in the trial a few months ago.  He looked on and then held a nice little stay as I told him to heel (CDSP has a running broad jump).  I had to give him a second command to get moving and then he cut the corner of the jump.

Retrieve on flat was nice, with a little bobble on the pickup.  Retrieve over high just had the front.  On the mini go out Vito looked ahead nicely and just arched about 2 feet to the right off center.

Between all the exercises he happily jumped up on me, engaged with me to the set up of the next one, and didn't get his first cookie until after the 4th exercise!  A bit of looking around, but seemed very relaxed and happy about it all.

The run was a nice way to end his obedience year, NQ and all.



Been moved in for almost 2 weeks now.  This past week we've been mainly grounded at home.  All the doggies at work went out to fosters for the holiday break so that means I've been off of work.  And since I'm not really planning on leaving the Toller alone in the new house, with the newly lowered dose of Fluoxetine, we've all been cozy together.

Vito did get left alone twice for about an hour each time and both times went surprisingly well.  The first time was because the cat decided to scare me into thinking he was blocked.  Luke has had a history of peeing blood when "stressed" and while he's never been blocked before it's not something I want to wait and see about.  So when we moved I immediately put him on amitriptyline.  Seemed his crazy obnoxious self almost right away, and then he started peeing blood.  Concerned, but not too worried yet.  Then he started making frequent trips to the litter box and seemingly nothing was coming out all day.  Sigh.  Trip to the emergency vet.  Good news, he's not blocked.  A few more days of continuing the amitriptyline and adding in pain meds and an antibiotic and he's back to his annoying self.  Fingers are crossed that he he stays this way.

Which reminds me of the best invention ever.  
Trash can with a lock!  Even after cutting away the scrap meat from the ham and tossing the bone into the trash, I didn't have to wake up to trash all over the kitchen floor!  I don't know why it took me so long.  It also fully earns Lance his freedom at night since I don't have to worry about him joining in with the cat's efforts.

Gracie is a bit bored due to the lock down.  No Labradors to play with :(  Instead, when the "feels like" temp is actually above zero degrees, she's been practicing bowling into the corgi and playing keep away with the toller's toys.  It is freezing though.  A bit embarassing when I take her to a store and she becomes a tripod during the walk from car to front doors.  I promise that my service dog doesn't need one herself!
Merry Christmas!

At Grandma's house.  Hello Rowan!


Review: Evanger's Freeze Dried treats from sent us some Evanger's beef liver treats this time to review!

I was super glad I had these treats on hand for the big move.  When the internet guy had to come over to the house to install a cable line, Vito needed something new and extra tasty to distract him.  The initial entry into the house went really well as I stayed outside with Vito and shoved these treats down his throat.  There were a few barking episodes back inside, but Vito was also excited about the cookies and was soon throwing himself into heel position and begging to be fed.

The treats come in pretty big squares, but it's possible to break them up into smaller pieces.  Several times though I really wished I had precut them with a knife.  They will leave a few crumbs from breaking them up, but pretty minimal.

Vito loves freeze dried treats and these ones seem to be the lowest price ones I could find.  They're grain free, gluten free, and single ingredient.  Pretty big win in my book!


The New Place!

We did it!  Signed the papers on Friday and got most of our stuffed move over this weekend.

I'm actually shocked at how well Vito seems to be adjusting.  Not sure if it's the new drug or just the fact that all his things are here with him too.  Pretty barky at any noise from the snow falling to the cat getting into trouble.  But that's to be expected.

Yard!!!  We made it just barely past the garage/barn before the dogs started freezing.

See, Lance is already heading back to stand by the door.  Vito's enjoying the zoomies.

Our first Christmas tree!!!


The Toller's Nose

Vito would make a great searching type dog.  Drugs, people, balls...  At least he rocks the ball category.
Found both rubber balls in the snow drifts at work today that were lost from earlier.

He pretty much searches the gigantic yard every single afternoon, just hoping that someone forgot to bring a ball back in.  Tennis balls, and tiny tiny pieces of tennis balls, takes him about 3 seconds.  The black rubber Kong balls are newer so it takes him longer.  Of course most days there's nothing to find.

 Today was a heat wave in Minnesota.  Wednesday had a windchill of -19 degrees, today's playtime temp was a balmy 14 degrees.  Thank God!


Obedience Seminar

I just finished attending a big name obedience seminar on problem solving and I'm not quite sure what to say.  I definitely wasn't prepared.  I knew this wasn't a force free trainer but I also knew she was big into motivation and drive building so I guess I was thinking the corrections wouldn't be as frequent or as harsh.  I was wrong.

For the most part I saw dogs who didn't know how to win, not dogs who were lacking on effort.  I guess I didn't find it funny when a few of the dogs tried to avoid the situation by hiding behind mom or even running to their crate.  There were repeated comments about needing to release the pressure by doing fun tricks afterwards and putting dogs back in drive.  I guess that's good and all but I don't see why dogs need to be pushed so hard that they were in danger of shutting down.  There were several moments where dogs were repeatedly asked to a do a behavior over and over until they failed just so they could get a correction for lack of effort.  That Have To moment that supposedly is so important in obedience training.

It honestly was a great seminar though and I have quite a few ideas that should be easy enough to apply in a force free manner.  I'll just focus on building that Want.  In the presenter's defense, she did speak often of building that Want as a puppy so that you don't have as much shutdown with corrections in the future.
Seminars are so hard as you only get 10 minutes to spend evaluating a team and trying to show solutions that should takes weeks or months to implement.

Actually the most fascinating part for me was all the focus on cookies.  Cookies to keep the dog in drive, cookies as part of the correction process to lessen the defensiveness, and cookies to keep behavior's valued. I certainly wasn't expecting that.  Some of the methods were similar to what I've been doing with Vito in his training.  He's not ready to fully immerse into the get rid of all the cookies! plan I did with Lance this past year.  No cookies, no force, building the Want towards the joy of working just for me.  Vito's on a modified jackpot type of training plan, mixed in with a lot of personal play.

Anyway, here are some ideas I'm excited about trying, or re-visiting, with my crew:
- scooting back in a down and in a sit for our signals and drop on recalls.  Re-fixing it so Lance actually does it instead of just barking at me :) Vito actually has a decent version of both.
- doing multiple really fast spins with Lance to try and incite some forging in practice.   He actually doesn't forge very often in practice anymore (yay!!!) so it will be fun to try and get him really high and see if he can collect his brain.
- fronts after fast spins
- working on tiny fixes of fronts instead of bigger, easier ones: setting up a front, cuing wait, and stepping to the side only 2 inches in either direction instead of 12 inches before calling him to front again.
- Working on more moving tricks with Lance as I realized I generally don't do very many spins or touching while heeling due to his smaller size.


Vito's Behavioral Recheck- New Plan

Big changes will be coming soon for Vito.  He had his recheck appointment this week with his behaviorist.  A long overdue appointment since we had a hard time getting in on the schedule.  We talked about his 3 core issues and how for the most part he is worse in all areas:
- Separation Anxiety
- Car anxiety
- Reactivity to people/ generalized anxiety

Vito likes to stick to his habit of great improvement with each new drug or dosage we try, and then a slow shrinking back to normal.

SA- We continue our habit of not really ever leaving him alone.  If he does have to be left, it better be in the morning when he has the best chance of just deciding to crawl back into bed and sleep.  Otherwise he's anxious after 5 minutes and has restarted his panting and has even gone back to some howling.

Car- Vito has been slowly getting worse for awhile now.  I was hoping that when we were gifted a minivan earlier last month that it would make him happy.  Vito seemed to enjoy the Honda Fit we've sometimes borrowed and I thought maybe he liked the flat surface vs being on a seat.  But the van is apparently out to eat him.  Vito has taken to stalling about getting inside as it takes him forever to cross our miniature yard space and of course he then has to stretch.  About half of the car rides now are panic attacks.  The other half range from light panting to a few nice ones.

Reactivity to people is the lowest of his anxieties.  He's reacting quite a bit at work to sounds of people coming by.  Even to me.  Vito was nice enough to demonstrate his increased anxiety by totally flipping out when the exam room door opened.  But overall not bad.

By all accounts, we're pretty close to where we were last May.  I guess there's one good change since then as I've mostly fixed/managed the issues we were having with redirecting onto the dogs at work.  Vito was rushing and snarking at the labs with the excitement of being let out into the big yard.  Just leashing him and waiting a little bit wasn't helping as Vito is proud of his ability to obsess and explode.  So I went to requiring Vito to take, and swallow, treats.  I've already taught him this requirement for past problems so it didn't take Vito too long to get the rules.  I love that the simple act of eating helps to calm dogs down.  Even though Vito really doesn't want to the treats it's remarkable how much he demands them now, he likes routines you know, and then how much this calms him.  We're not at 100% success, but most days this problem is conquered.

The new plan:

Start over with his drugs.  The big solution that was sticking out back in June that I wasn't quite ready to do.  I became ready this September. Unfortunately the vet wanted to meet with us and talk it out in person first.

1. Scrapping Diazepam which has just too short of an effect and is creating lots of spikes throughout Vito's day.
2. Replacing Diazepam with a longer acting drug.  A very, very expensive longer acting drug :(  We will start Clorazepate.

(3. Sticking with Clonidine to keep helping him during all the transitions.  I definitely notice a difference when it's wearing off.)

Because of the big move, the rest of the plan will be delayed some more.  But hopefully Vito will settle into the new house quickly and we can start.

4. Good bye Fluoxetine.  The daily dose of 40mg is very high and clearly not helping.  Weaning process will take awhile.  This will be rough.

5. Hello Amitriptyline.  She was reluctant to do another SSRI due to the Fluoxetine dose and effect on Vito.  This new drug is in the same family as the very first drug Vito tried.  At that time we stopped after 4wks because Vito was becoming more reactive and anxious in places.  In hindsight I'm now not sure if we weren't giving the drug enough time to work and the anxiety shown was the new Vito just starting to emerge.


Getting Your Dog's Head in the Game

Today many dog agility bloggers will be writing on the topic of the Mental Game.  Having a special dog like Vito I find that there are so many variables that need to be thought about in order to get him both feeling comfortable about his environment and excited about the task at hand.  Here are a few of the many things I'm constantly re-evaluating to get my Toller in the right frame of mind.

1.  Where to crate from?
Many people find that dogs who are a bit worried about the crazy atmosphere at agility trials, and dogs who seem to feed off that atmosphere, getting more and more hyped, do better if left in the car.  Others do best if crated in the building, giving them time to acclimate to it.

If you choose to crate in the building, please try and practice this skill before it's really needed.  One constantly barking dog can make it difficult for other dogs to relax, especially for the other worry wart dogs.   I find most dogs do best with a crate cover if they are in a busy area where dogs and people might constantly be getting to close to their space.  I've even seen some people put a little jar of dog treats and a sign telling people to feed their dog when walking by to help get them used to the environment.  I'm lucky that Vito does very good in the environment itself as long as he can hear people near by and has his crate covered to block out stimulation.

2. How much stew time is needed?

Once you've arrived at the site and have gotten set up, does your dog need time to look around and take everything in?  I will often walk Vito around a little bit at trials or at least let him hang out with me outside of the crate.  I typically don't focus on walking everywhere on the trial ground as ultimately part of the test is the ability to walk through the ring gates of an unexplored area and focus.  I find this is a bigger challenge in obedience than in agility, but it's still something I carry over.  Mainly I let Vito look around versus walk around so that he can see everything is safe.

For dogs who get hyped up, one could also experiment with some mat work on arrival, and calm delivery of treats.  I think that the ability to relax on site, when you're not asking for any specific engagement from the dog, is a crucial part of the trial experience and one that some dogs will always need work on.

3. What type and length of warm up is needed?
Coming out of the crate does your dog need additional stew time before he will engage 100% with you?  At first I was asking Vito to tug and play with me immediately upon exit of his crate, but it was always a struggle to get the attitude I wanted right off the bat.  I was certainly working harder than he was.  So now I let him look around, without the ability to wander off anywhere, and wait until he is asking me to play.  Way less effort on my part and better results as he just needed a small amount of time to ground himself before being ready.

Type of warm up is also a huge question.  Rev them up or calmly focus them?  In general I lean towards the rev up side for most dogs.  Dogs who stress down often need to do a lot of moving tricks.  Vito's favorite trick is vaulting off of me and many dogs respond well to any jumping or fast moving tricks like spinning.  Barking on cue is often a great way to get a dog more excited.  I am thrilled that while it took awhile to get Vito to scream at me before going into the ring, it's now uncued and chaotic!

I also believe that many dogs who stress up would do well with a rev up type of warm up, mixed with some quick responses to control behaviors like sit, down, or heeling.  Calming warm ups might work well for some dogs, but for many it just gives a false sense of control if the dog immediately spirals up on entering the ring. Ultimately, warm up length and type take the most experimentation.

4. When and how do you enter the ring?
Do you keep the dog focused on you with tricks, or do you let them watch the dog ahead of you? Do you sprint into the ring with intensity at the last minute or do some controlled heeling?  If the leash removal isn't required to wait until the judge's signal, how early do you remove it?  Do you do a lead out, or run off together with variations of starting including drop and go, pushing back, or a quick trick?
Screaming Toller!!!

Vito's current solution starts with me letting him watch the dog ahead of us, or at least looking into the ring if he's first.  I whisper are you ready?! type talk into his ear and try to get him excited about entering.  For the most part it's a good answer for us, but sometimes he will find a scary person to fixate on so then I try and jump to having him scream at me.  When I tried to focus on him just playing with me, he often needed to look around upon entering the ring and didn't get enough time to decide everybody was safe.  For crazy dogs, looking into the ring may be a disaster if the dog loses the focus they hand on you!

We then always sprint into the ring together.  I ideally like to get in  the ring just early enough to build some anticipation, but not too early that he has time to look for people.  I take off the leash as soon as possible (NADAC is harder) and toss it far away so the leash runner doesn't approach.  Then focus needs to be 100% on me and I encourage him to scream at me and do his favorite tricks if there's a delay.  A tiny lead out works best as it builds a little anticipation and allows me to get just enough ahead that he's chasing me.  He does not like push backs in trials, although he does in practice.  I often chant to him as I do the slight lead out, getting him on the edge of self control and breaking.  And then if he breaks I smile and let him :)  The Corgi is upset at Vito's special rules!

Are there any other considerations you think about for your anxious or overly excitable dog?
Check out all the other blogs for more great ideas on improving your own mental game!


High in Trial Corgi!

If nothing else, read the end and celebrate with me!

Very big AKC obedience trial this weekend.

Saturday Utility
Oh my.  Lance was very excited to be in the ring.  A little too squirrley.  Gloves were first and a loss of 5 points kinda shows you where the class was headed.  He made a slight bobble of the glove on pick up and then spit the glove at my feet, culminating with not sitting.  Articles were pretty good, but on the 2nd send Lance hesitated and almost didn't go to the pile until he saw me looking at it.
Go outs were very exciting.  Lance locked onto the glove #3 location and went there both times, (although we had glove #1 earlier).  Barking on both jumps.  Signals were also costly.  It's been a very long time since I've heeled with Lance's butt instead of his front end.  He punched me on the recall as well.  The moving stand was borderline NQable.  Lance was a good body length ahead of me on the heeling, continuing his fine work from signals, and while he usually still has a great freeze on the stay, Lance chose not to show that part off today.  Walked very far but I kept walking too.
The judge did qualify us!  Not a pretty score.

Saturday Open
Much better.  The Corgi was happy but in more of a thinking mode.  No real issues although his fronts were off.  Lost only 1 point on the heeling due to a slightly wide about turn (can't seem to fix that!) and the 2nd halt.
Held his sit stay!  And I didn't notice any sniffing this time as I walked away.  Was almost crushed by the nice golden next to him on the long down.  Alternate handler was needed as her momma needed to handle the sibling in the same group.  Apparently the golden felt the need to sass and was not going to move to where she should've been set up.  They were very close but Lance didn't seem to be any more stressed.

UDX leg #8!

Sunday Utility
Much better than Saturday but still pretty squirrley.  The moving stand was first and I'm pleased to report that Lance heeled nicely and stuck the stay just fine.  Go outs were second and Lance managed to lose even more points than the day before.  First go out he went crooked like the day before, but not quite as bad as he arched a bit more to teh center.  No sit.  Picturing yesterday's disaster I gave a 2nd verbal cue to remind him of his job.  He barked on the jump.  Second go out he sits, but gives a sassy bark back in response.  Gives another bark on taking the jump.  Sigh.
Heeling was greatly improved!  It's nice to heel with your dog instead of after him.  But sadly, Lance stared at me blankly when I gave the stand signal and sat instead.  The remaining signals, glove exercise, and articles all went very well.  NQ for us.

Sunday Open
Lance was ON!  Heeling was gorgeous.  Fronts and finishes, almost perfect!  Lance did almost give me a heart attack as he did a small jolt when the judge said to call him and I feared was anticipating.  But he was a good boy and waited for my cue.  Drop on recall he gave a loud grumble as he did the down signal.

I knew he did very well for us and was hoping maybe we could get a 197ish score.  Lance was the first dog in the ring and dogs after him were making silly mistakes.  There were 4 groups of stays and after the first half of the class was finished there were only 3 qualifiers including the corgi!  My hopes started to dash as the second half of dogs broke free of the curse and did very, very well.  I almost went home several times.  But finally the large class was over, a run off was done, and we went back in the ring.  As he announced 3rd and 4th place as a 198 my heart sunk.  Second was a 198.5.  And then suddenly my number was being called and Lance won the class with a 199!!!!  Pretty sure nothing was processing after that and I may have been in a long daze.  199.  High in trial CORGI!


Gracie 11 month Video

Gracie needed a new video for her sponsors!

Things are going well.  She's calm yet spunky and absolutely obnoxious with the other dogs.  Her favorite activity is muzzle punching Vito when he's having one of those days and getting him all wound up.  Vito will actually "play" with her then in a really awkward loud and angry type of way.

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!


Finding a New Veterinarian

With the move coming up in less than a month, one of the first things I did was look for a new veterinarian.  While we're not moving too far from where we currently live, our amazing vet is already a long drive and the move would put it even further and make it completely impossible in any traffic.

My criteria for a vet is high.  I am one of THOSE parents.  But hopefully not an obnoxious know it all?

Must haves:
- Good with anxious dogs.  Meaning no fast movements, no exam tables, and tons of patience and cookies.
- Comfortable with never separating me from my dog.  I am aware that some dogs do much better away from their well meaning parents, but not mine.  No back room stuff for Vito.
- Comfortable with me restraining my pets.  I do know techniques for holding animals securely and the ability to hold my pets for procedures helps calm them immensenly.   Because of liability issues, I am ok if they require muzzling in order for me to hold.
- Similar viewpoints on nutrition, spay/neuters, vaccination schedules, weights, and chiropractic care.  Or at least support in the decisions I make for my dogs and not constant arguing.
- And of course having good medical knowledge and being a respected doctor.  But that is really hard for me to evaluate, not being a doctor and all.

We got a referal to a vet clinic in the area so I promptly made a call and scheduled an appointment to talk to the doctor and bring in Vito, the ultimate test dog.  Drugged him up a bit extra for the morning appointment, but unfortunately Vito was having one of those mornings.  The car was out to eat him so by the time we arrived he was in complete panic mode.  At least it allowed me to get a good eval of the the clinic!  I was very happy with the vet so hopefully it will be a good choice for us.  Fingers crossed we won't have to find out any time soon.


Bubba Certification

Bubba and his new mom have finished their training and are now an official working team!  Since that early morning alert the first night, Bubba has continued to alert his mom to her low blood sugar.  He has even alerted her a few times while playing at the dog park!  In the 7 weeks since he moved in, Bubba has only missed one low.  Awesome Schipperke!

She loves his crazy antics and how he makes her laugh every day.

This means that Bubba will join our spring graduation day in May 2014.  I'll get to reunite with the little bear then.
Flack back to 1 year ago!


A yard!

Soon this yard will be ours.

Yes, we are buying our first house!  I am so excited to actually have a space to train the dogs!
The house is super tiny, but 2.7 acres!
Lots of gopher holes from being unoccupied all year.  But I'm sure Vito will be happy to assist in gopher re-homing plans.  Any tips?


Loving Obedience Work

30 seconds!  That is how long it took Vito to choose to engage with me upon getting to the edge of the park.  I had no food on me, no toys, and after 30 short seconds of Vito staring out into the parking lot he made the choice to come through my legs for butt scratches and begin work.  I did decide to quickly end our start when Vito had some glances away while I tried to take the leash off, but he yelled at me for that choice and then remembered the rule on our immediate attempt #2.  I love when he sasses at me.

Today I did 2 sessions and focused on 3 lessons.  The first part of each session was evaluating how quickly Vito chose to engage with no rewards on me.  As mentioned above, that was pure awesomeness!  But, the work itself needs some more confidence.  Vito was doing a ton of bouncing and forging.  While I am extremely happy he's doing that and I now feel he is ready for me to start working on precision.  I did quite a bit of slow time and left pivots.  It's remarkable the huge difference in handling I've been able to begin.  Way less work output for me!  I am also assuming that even without me doing any work on precision in our heeling that the bouncing and forging will start to go away on its own.  Right now I feel it's part of a over excited and frustrated response and as he settles into being more comfortable working in new places it should go away.

After a few minutes and he got a ball reward, I then worked on leaving the ball on the ground.  The amount of focus this required for Vito actually improved his heeling tremendously.  Keeping eye contact with me when we got close to the ball was a bit hard, and staying engaged with me when I tried to play with him without releasing him to the ball was harder.  But heeling progress was very nice :)

The third part I wanted to work on was Vito heeling with the ball in his mouth.  I haven't done much with this before and it was an idea Denise Fenzi recommends on her blog and classes.  The idea is to 1) increase the challenge of heeling and 2) to insert the handler more into the reward package.  The dog having the toy is fun, but it's even more fun when you're involved.  Of course that's way easier to do with a tug toy as you can just reach down and tug every now and then, but I'm making it work with a ball.

Training obedience with Vito is really becoming fun again.  It's not that it wasn't fun before, but it was requiring so much more thinking and planning on my part.  Progress is continuing in leaps and bounds from even a month ago!


Gracie 11 months

Gracie is 11 months old now.  Still on restriction from her recent spay and pissed about it.  She's been letting me know by casually pushing aside the gate setup at work and just standing in the middle of the room.  Not going anywhere, but not so subtlety advertising her displeasure at not being allowed to play with the other dogs.

Occasional training worked on:
1. Light switches- Starting full height, just going back to working on flipping them ON.  Because of her little size she has to get awfully close to the wall.

2. Tug AND hold- Has had just a few lessons on keeping a grip on a tug rope in order to prevent a door from closing.  Gracie's doing a great job of not letting go of the rope, but is adamant that I must also want continued violent tugs on it as well.  The door is not amused.

3. Bucking bronco- needs work, but has been put on hold until she's fully recovered.


Happy 5th Birthday Vito!



After returning home from the corgi specialty Saturday evening, I gathered the dogs to head to a NADAC trial on Sunday.  Not the smartest choice maybe, but at the time of sending in entries I was aching for an agility trial!

Lance seemed excited, but maybe a bit tired :)  He NQed in both rounds of regular, something that I don't think he has ever done!  Knocked bar in round 1 and an off course I didn't see while walking.  Round 2 had another knocked bar and not one, but two missed contact/tunnel discrimination!  No consistency either, first discrimination he took the closer aframe over the tunnel, second time he took the further tunnel over the dogwalk.

Thankfully he got another elite chances Q, the reason I really wanted to go!  It was a fairly simple course I thought, but surprisingly the success rate for others wasn't as high as I expected.  Jumpers he also did a nice job, but his tiredness definitely showed as his YPS was down to 4.4, a full yard slower than normal :(  He seemed to be having fun though!

Toller screaming loudly continued on each start line!  He did a few chest vaults while waiting for bars to be set and was quite obnoxious :)  I also felt like he was being relatively speedy out there but his YPS didn't quite show it.  I'm not sure what the disconnect was with that.  But I was happy he was happy!

First run was tunnelers and he broke his start line :)

Second run was Regular and he pulled off a jump as I sent him for a front cross I was going to do after the 180.  We just ignored the mistake and kept going.  His dogwalk was back to no added strides, but wasn't quite as extended as I would have liked.  A bit high.  He was a little naughty after the aframe as I could tell he wanted to run out of the ring and get his ball, but he listened and turned wide :)  He DID run out of the ring after we finished though and had to be called back in!  Naughty Toller!!!

Third run was Chances and it was definetly a Vito course!  The rear cross was done well before the line so that Vito was running again by the time I had to send him.  And then just a little line to the dogwalk!  This time Vito actually omitted a stride on his dogwalk!  And again was very high.  I much prefer that to extra strides though.

Last run was jumpers.  I didn't get video, but I felt as though Vito was actually running the same as his other runs.  It was a smooth run, no wide turns, skipped jumps, nothing.  But he was over time by a measly .18seconds at 4.72 YPS.  This shocked me.  It also makes me stressed about future jumpers run with him.  While 4.7 is not his fastest speed in jumpers, it's also not unusual for him.  Especially since jumpers is often the last run of the day and it's his saddest class.  In NADAC you can't run proficient 20in in one class and skilled 16 in another the same trial.  I also can't enter skilled to get the added time but jump him at 20in still.  While I'm not opposed to jumping Vito at 16, I haven't seen any added enthusiasm or better jumping style when I've done that at practice.  I also would like to keep his jump height closer to USDAA's 22in so there's not such a huge difference between trials.  But maybe this is just thinking for nothing.  A local club is going to be offering 3 more UKI trials next years that I'm extremely excited about.  If I replace NADAC with UKI than it doesn't matter as NADAC definitely has the tightest standard times of all organizations.

Oh, and Vito won the costume contest!  Will share pictures on Halloween :)


Gracie- spayed!

Gracie got spayed today!  Yup, it was decided that she is not to be a breeder dog for future service dog puppies.  And then I wimped out and decided I wanted to spay her immediately so I wouldn't have to deal with a heat cycle.

So tonight the background sounds are similar to that of a tea kettle.  Poor Gracie.  At least she's not as loud as Chuckles was.  No dog will ever be as pathetic as he was coming out of both his neuter and his xrays.

Happier Gracie of her at the hotel.  Being a good girl and not getting on the bed despite the corgi repeatedly teasing her.


At the Corgi Specialty!!!

Road trip!  Lance and I, along with cheerleaders Gracie and Grandma, headed off to the Lakeshore Corgi specialty show.  The first time Lance and I have ever had an overnight for a trial!  Unlike the Toller, Lance and Gracie know just how to sleep on long car rides.

The trip was about 6.5hrs including a quick stop for lunch.  We came down Thursday night so that Lance could have a quick 5 minutes of ring time.  Since we have never shown at a hotel or on carpet, I wasn't sure how he would do.  Lance did pretty well and was only a little distracted by all the delicious banquet smells all over the carpet.  He was a bit weirded out by a section of the carpet in the lobby section and I could never figure out if it was the specific pattern of carpet in that area, a weird smell, or the way the sun light was reflecting the pattern.  Thankfully the ring area didn't have most of those issues for him.

Friday held two obedience trials back to back.  So Lance went in the ring 4 times plus stay.  Montage Video!:

Utility #1- NQ
First run and Lance was a bit distracted for the first bit of heeling.  Did a pretty good job of staying in position, but not with the attitude and focus I've trained.  Became very happy on the signals though!  AWESOME fronts and finishes and no real issues with anything until we got to directed jumping.  Then on the first send out Lance stopped just past the halfway point and looked at the bar jump next to him. Without me saying anything he then quickly headed back to the go out spot.  I breathed a sigh of relief and then signaled the jump.  Lance however spied Grandma video taping as I gave the signal.  He moved, but started coming towards me.  Just over halfway he realized his mistake and without me doing anything he immediately headed back to the correct jump and took it!  The opposite direction.  Then started heading back to me but caught Grandma's eye again and kinda froze.  Wow.  I never could have imagined failing direct jumping that way!!!  Very creative Mr. Corgi, very creative.  At least you're thinking and realizing your mistakes!

Open #1- Q 197, High in Trial!, Obedience Master title!
Time for Open and Lance reverted back to being a little uncertain for the heeling.  This time it only lasted halfway and he was perfect by the time the figure 8 rolled around.  Fronts and finishes continued to rock!
Going into stays we were first and we also did them in the middle of the large ring.  I'm not sure if Lance was less stressed due to either of those facts, or maybe because there were only corgis in the ring, but Lance gave me fabulous happy eye contact on our way in the ring and during our set up.  He was still a bit stressed as I left, but much much better than most groups.  And he held it!  First place, high in trial!  We were short a dog for OTCH points, so the win and points don't count.  But he got a cool plaque and huge ribbon :)  This was also more than enough score points to complete his Obedience Master title!

Utility #2- Q 193, 1st place
Awesome heeling!  Fronts and finishes starting to suffer a tiny bit more, but otherwise doing really well.  Great glove pivot and eye contact.  Article #1 I'm not sure what happened.  He gave me a heart attack as he ran right past the pile and started sniffing about 5 feet away.  Sniffing lasted a good 5 seconds before he came back to pile and immediately snatched the correct one.  Article #2 was great.  We qualified with a generous score of 193.  And another first place!  I was sad, but happy for me, that the second place corgi also had a stopping of the search during article #1 so we evened out on that for points lost.  This first place counted for points and we got 2 little points.

Open #2- Q 195, 2nd place, High Combined, UDX leg #7
Still awesome heeling!  Fronts and finishes diminishing even more.  Not awful, but lost at least 1/2pt on each exercise due to a front or finish.  I could tell he was getting a bit tired as his retrieves and drop on recall didn't have the bunny butt running he usually does.  Stays remained the same in hapiness level and he held them again!  We're now back up to tie our record of 6 long sits in a row.  So that's a total of 12 out of 13 held recently.  Hope!

So, so proud of the Corgi!  I can't believe how consistent he is becoming in obedience and how much he continues to enjoy it.  I can actually believe that next spring we should finish our UDX and just maybe we can some day finish an OTCH.  Currently we sit at 2 of 3 first places and 17 points.  Way more than I ever thought we would achieve.  

Link to the crazy go out fiasco in trial 1:



Gracie got to play with her brother quite a bit this last week.  Mr. Rooney was in for some boot camp, aka basic manners training.  Boot camp #2 for him, as the first one was our puppy swap back in March.

He was quite happy to be at the kennels and a little too obnoxious with the other dogs, even for a  Labrador!  I think all the pictures I have of him and Gracie playing have Angry Face featured.

Rooney reminds me a ton of Gracie.  The same weird bark, the same head tilts, and overall super sweet and hard working personality.  Just a 15lb difference in size!  He was a fast learner and a very respectful dog once he knew the rules.  Only a little bit of testing!

And on an unrelated note, Lance and I are headed down to Chicago this morning for a Corgi Specialty!  Wish us luck in the obedience ring!


Lance Advanced Teamwork trial

Now the recap I've been dying to tell!
On Sunday after just completing the group stays I rushed over with the corgi to see the Advanced Teamwork ring.  Exercises were to be: heeling, glove seek back, moving down, and send away.
Whew, no object placement exercise, but the send away one worried me!  We convinced the nice judge to help us out by using some white tape to make the box instead of the barely visible blue tape he had down.  Thank you!  (Video is at the end!)

Heeling was first and Lance seemed to be more pumped on his 3rd time in the ring, 4th if you count going back for stays.  He had some forging in the beginning, a silly no sit until told, and then I could tell he got visibly excited as he saw we were going to the box!

The glove seek back was next.  More heeling!  Our halt was at a corner of the ring and Lance was certain that when I sent him out to find the glove that he was supposed to run to his box instead!  Very confused corgi danced around in the box a little, and then even touched the ring gate.  Then he suddenly saw the glove and sprinted towards it very proudly!  A little too proud maybe as he flung it in the air :)

And more heeling followed for the moving down.  Normally one of Lance's favorite thing to practice!  He seemed a bit unsure of in the ring and I ended up dropping my shoulder and looking back at him as I left.  He watched me do some heeling on my own and then was certain that when I was finally allowed to call him to come join me that it was a trick.  A second command and he was happy to join me!

Position changes followed.  Leaving the dog in the stand for stand-down-sit-stand-sit-down-stand.
I was worried that Lance would see the stand-down-sit as the utility exercise and sprint towards me on the stand cue.  He didn't, but must have been thinking hard as his butt rose a tiny bit on the stand cue but ultimately needed a quick second command to get it.  No problems with the down to stand!  On my return he must have thought I was resetting him as he walked towards me and curled around.

And the best for last!  For the send away we started in the right corner, so dog on outside.  I was somewhat relieved as I knew Lance would be a tiny bit less likely to just go to the side wall when I sent him instead of going across the ring.  But Lance locked onto the cone and sent out beautifully!  I was also happy that both positions the judge picked were a sit.  Keeping it simple for us!  For the box send, Lance didn't hesitate at all.  He went flying across the ring to pounce in the box and then wanted to keep going to come back to me.  He did sit when I told him to, just not in the box!

Overall I am extremely thrilled with how Lance did in this class.  Despite not being fully prepared on the exercises, he remained happy and confident.  It was very entertaining and at least 3 people I talked to afterwards said that they would be interested in doing it if we offered the class again next year!

Fun video!


UDX leg #6, Placements!

Saturday Utility
Lance was on!  Much improved fronts and finishes and pretty good heeling.
Main points lost were for barking on one of the go outs, for doing a very poor glove pivot, and one detour on a finish to look at the other ring where a friend was competing.
Biggest pros were much improved fronts and finishes.  Pretty good heeling.  Remembering his sits on the go outs and nailing his signals.

Lance ended up in a 3 way tie for first place!  I again wasn't prepared for the run off but Lance did a very nice job.  A wide on the about turn placed us in 2nd place and a few more OTCH points!

Saturday Open
Lance was definitely a bit more off going into the open ring.  Much more looking around and a bit of stress.  Heeling was first and Lance had several wide moments for the first half and a no sit.  He pulled it together for half #2 and did a great job.  Fronts and finishes continued to have a higher success rate!

Best part- Lance held his sit again!  I saw definite sniffing on my way out of sight though :(

Sunday Utility
Happy, happy corgi.
Glove turn was actually really good this time, and continued streak of not auto marking the glove!
Go outs were beautifully executed again, but costly in terms of barking.  One bark on the first send, and two more barks as he took each jump.  Errors of enthusiasm!
Sadly, Lance looked up as someoen in the audience coughed as the judge was putting the first article out.  He then saw Daddy and stared lots.  When I cued his direct send and pivoted Lance didn't quite move with me.  His brain caught up a tiny bit later and he completed the turn but I had to give a second command to send him to the pile.
Other issues: Took 2 small steps as I left him on the signal stand and took a good 3 steps as I left him on the moving stand.

Sunday Open
Wow, much much better than on Saturday!!!  Lance nailed everything!  He lost a total of a 1/2pt on the heeling/figure 8 (although I think the judge was a little generous) and then had 2 fronts and one finish.  Held his stay again!
This earned us Lance's highest score ever, 198, and that score was actually good enough for 2nd place!!!  

So Lance earned his 6th UDX leg on Saturday and a total of 5 OTCH points this weekend!  I'm actually starting to think that it might be possible to put an OTCH on him!

We also did the Advanced Teamwork class on Sunday and I'll write about that in another post :)


Practicing AKC's Advanced Teamwork

2 days.  That's how long I have until Lance competes in the AKC Advanced Teamwork class.  Over a year ago I begged our trial chair to offer this class at our club's obedience trial.  I wanted new exercises to train and I thought the class sounded completely cool!  It was a great plan and at the time I had about 14 months to train everything.  Then 10 whole months, over 6 months, and now 2 days.  Yikes.  It's not like I haven't worked on anything over the past year, but I certainly didn't give this class the attention I wanted to.
I initially put off the training because I decided to work hard on phasing out the food in Lance's training and this mission was incompatible with training new exercises.  Operation no-food went really well (yay!) but somehow this still remained on the back burner.  Oh well.  The training I have done has been really fun.  Lance loves learning new things too, and he certainly loves all the food treats he's been getting recently as we try and cram for our exam!

The Advanced Teamwork class is non titling and involves a complex heeling pattern and the judges choices of 4 other exercises out of 7 choices.  Most of the exercises are variations of ones in utility.  I made a cheat sheet of rules here.

1. Object Placement- Here the dog goes out to a thrown object, sits and keeps it in his mouth, and then goes to the directed cone and drops it, returning to the handler without.
Likelihood of our success- poor!  Lance does have all the key points trained.  He has a distance interrupted sit while keeping the object.  A distance send to the cone.  A distance drop.  And a recall while leaving it.  But put them all together and the chances of one breaking down is high.

2. Scent work- Dog is sent from 30 feet away to a pile of 10 objects, all different objects, only 4 of the same material.
Likelihood of success- high.  This is just the basic utility exercise so training to different objects wasn't hard.  The hard part has been trying to find a variety of objects that are easy for Lance to pick up.  Our chance of failure will likely be if Lance doesn't like the feel of an object in his mouth (since of course I still need to practice him picking up all the items!)

3. Seek back- While heeling the handler drops a black glove and continues heeling.  Dog is sent back to find it, the glove will not be straight forward.
Likelihood of success- high.  While I admit I have really never practiced this, I have no doubt that Lance will run out and look for something to retrieve!  We've done find the article pile so this is very similar.

4. Moving stand, sit, or down- While heeling, the dog does a moving stand/sit/down on judges order while handler keeps on heeling.  Dog is then called to heel as handler stops.
Likelihood of success- moderate.  Lance's moving down and stand are in the bag.  A moving sit was actually very hard for him.  Calling to heel should be easy from any position.

5. Baseball Gloves/Drop on Recall- Dog is started at the #2 base position, with glove behind him.  Handler is across the ring and calls dog to come, cues a down halfway.  Then directs dog to the correct glove like in the UKC exercise.
Likelihood of success- moderate.  Lance has done the CDSP baseball glove (go out style) pretty well.  He still needs practice on sending back to #2 sometimes.  There's also the chance that Lance won't do his drop on recall, or will start heading to glove #1 or #3 before I cue the drop.

6. Distance Control- Dog is left in a sit/stand/ or down at the end of the ring and the handler cycles the dog through a posted order of 6 position changes.
Likelihood of success- moderate, although I expect creepage.  Lance is mostly very good, but the down to stand is his hardest and he sometimes sits instead.

7. Send Away- Handler and dog start at one corner of the ring.  Dog is sent to a cone straight ahead at the other corner and then does a sit/stand/ or down at the cone (judges choices).  Then the handler directs the dog to the other far corner (diagonal from handler, perpendicular to dog) where a chalk box is set up for the dog to do a sit/stand/ or down inside.  Handler than starts walking and cues the dog to catch up into heel position.
Likelihood of success- low.  Hardest and newest exercise by far!!!  First Lance had to learn to go out to the cone, which in and of itself wasn't hard.  Some difficultly lied in the fact that we start next to the ring gates and Lance sometimes wanted to just head to the side and touch the nearer gates instead of going all the way down.  Then breaking :( the sit he is so used to doing from directed jumping in utility and cuing a down or stand.  We're still not complete at that step.
But hardest step was the perpendicular send to the box.  Coming up with a hand signal was very hard as my hand raising means come in towards me and take the jump from utility.  I settled on the opposite hand pushing across my body, although this does turn my shoulders and technically is a no-no. Oh well.  Lance's success rate on the first try with this send is maybe 70%.  Then actually getting him to stay in the box instead of automatically jumping in and out and heading towards me.  The sit/stand/down problems from the cone are the same.

Overall, not the success rate you want before a trial!!!  On the positive side, since I don't expect anything other than complete failure I should be very relaxed.  Only one other brave soul is entered with me and I know they're in the same boat.

For those curious, here's a video of our practice of some of the exercises:


Review- Tucker's Chicken Breast Jerky

The boys were sent some Tuckers Klassic Kellies chicken breast jerky treats to review.  Vito was VERY excited to get the package.  I honestly don't think I've ever seen him this excited about dog treats before and I take real salami and other meats to obedience trials.

The jerky came wrapped individually in the bag.  This confused me at first but as I opened a piece I saw that it was very greasy and pretty soft!  Unlike all the other chicken breast strips treats I've seen before, (all those ones that were recalled and made in China!) these strips were incredibly easy to break up into smaller pieces as long as you didn't mind your hands covered in grease.

I'm not exaggerating when Vito told me these are his favorite food treats ever.  He actually jumped up and stole a piece right out of my hand in a very un-Vito like move!  He also offered a version of his handstand trick.

Practicing his beg was very hard.  So excited!

These treats are made in the USA, both meat source and processing, and is 100% human grade quality.  Natural Pet Warehouse is having a huge sale on them right now, so don't hesitate to check them out!


Vito CDSP Triumph!

Vito got to play in a CDSP trial this weekend.  The relaxed and happy obedience organization :)

Vito woke up in his crazy mode that happens some times, and more and more often.  So add the car ride, and then having to share his crate with the Labrador for the first time and Vito was a bit high at the trial.  Vito's arousal level and stress levels are so intertwined.  But instead of melting and wanting to stare at people, Vito chose to expend his crazy panting and nervous energy into work.  Warming up was amazing and Vito played hard with me.

Going into the ring he had a little moment of hesitation.  Very much wanting to look around but I was happy that he did remember his new rule of eye contact for taking off the leash, after one restart.  Going to the drop on recall was a bit of a lag and then he pulled it together nicely.  A  happy explosion to me when I called.  More looking around on the setup for heeling so I said we weren't ready and did some bouncing with my knees like I do when I'm teasing him to start in our heeling games.  Very happy heeling followed!
Retrieves were also happy!  The go out he ran straight for the corner of the box line for a quick sniff and then corrected himself to go straight.
So a Q!  And high in trial!

Vito had a much better wake up and thus a calmer car ride and calmer trial demeanor.  Hanging out and then warming up to go into the ring he was psyched.  I think he was more hyped up than Saturday and he did have 2 reactions to people.  Thankfully both were pretty small and easy to get him back working.  Stressing up is certainly easier than stressing down!

Going into the ring was even better than Saturday!  His eyes shot up to mine as soon as I reached for the leash and he only gave a very tiny glance to the judge.  Heeling was first and it was very happy.  2 little sneezes near the beginning got us a lag but for the most part he was right there.  In between exercises he was much more willing to jump up on me, and eat a cookie of course, and did happy heeling to the next setup.  Both retrieves and the drop on recall were done done at full sprint!  We NQed on the broad jump as either Vito wasn't aware of its presence or his brain remained in goofy mode as he did a tiny little hop onto the middle of it.
Best video ever:

Happiest NQ ever!  I was debating about whether to enter him in round 2 on Sunday, but after that run I knew it couldn't possibly get better!

Our precision wasn't there on our fronts and finishes either day but I wasn't' expecting anything different since we really haven't done any precision work in over a year.  Happy Toller goal was met and exceeded :)


Gracie 10 months

Holy cow.  Gracie is definitely a late bloomer in terms of drive and energy.  She's always had a really great work ethic but lately her intensity is, well intensifying.

Here is Gracie doing her best impression of a border collie.  Recently she's been doing a very fast down whenever she sees a dog at a distance at the dog park, or out in the yard at work.  Then as the dog gets closer she continues her freeze and flattens her head.  Of course then the obnoxious body slamming aspect of her Labrador heritage comes out as she charges the unsuspecting dog.

Biggest challenges this month continue to be jumping up during greetings and being good on long downs.  Service dogs have to be content to do long down stays at meetings, restaurants, church services, etc.  Gracie is becoming a bit antsier and standing up more often.  She refuses to just go to sleep in case she misses something exciting.

Working on:
1. Object placement: Clean up is done, targets the bucket nicely with an object and doesn't try to step in it anymore :)  Adding height to the chair for future "rise-drop" is still on the to do list.

2. Moving downs- Mostly has a fast drop while heeling.  Needs a bit more work on getting the mostly to always while I keep on heeling instead of stopping.  Have also done a few drop on recalls from short distances.

3. Light off- just started to combine light off with switch on, all at nose level height.  She needs a bit of a warm up on moving her chin down on the wall before she is consistently good in a session.

4. Recalls- Not as good as they were a month ago, especially for coming to people other than myself.

5. Bucking bronco!- Yes, I finally started teaching my favorite trick of a leaping 360 flip :)  She's picking it up very, very fast!


Obedience games on the road

Vito is continuing to progress, in some ways, with his obedience training.  Still working extremely little on actual behaviors and focusing completely on engagement.

Progress is hilly with the first test.  The ability for Vito to start training on the first attempt with 100% of the attitude I want is mostly getting better.  But it can still take multiple exits and restarting on occasion.

The second aspect I just started working on with Vito is very short sessions of no food or toys.  Success in this is HUGE in many ways.  With Puppy Vito this was very easy to do but as his anxieties started to increase after his 2nd birthday I lost this ability.  The pushing and shoving I would do suddenly became too much pressure and only served to shut him down.  I've been slowly building it back up by trying very hard to insert myself into the use of food rewards, doing lots of relieving of pressure through backing up and/or running away, and creating high value for his hand touch and chest vault tricks.

Today I walked to the park with Vito to see how he would do with this game in a "new" place.  Vito's been to the park a lot for some off leash sniffing and we used to practice disc there, but he hasn't really done much obedience work there.  Here's me acting like an idiot:

I'm giving our session two thumbs up!  Pushy Toller appeared and he happily engaged with me for a full 4 minutes of play/work!  I did give him two treats in the last minute but I'm hoping they were the bonus cookies they felt like rather than bribe cookies to stay connected.  Our play was definitely obnoxious and I will eventually work on toning it down so that it could actually be useful in the obedience ring.  But for the now, the scratches on my arms and belly are a fun reminder.


Bubba- Diabetic Alert Schipperke!

This week Bubba left me for good.  He finished up his final training and took a long drive to South Dakota to meet his new momma and start a new job as a diabetic alert dog.

Fingers crossed that it's a good match and that Bubba embraces the job.

Gracie says goodbye

Good luck you crazy, crazy dog.
First reports are good.  Bubba's 1st alert was at 1am that first night!


Lance UDX leg, tiny OTCH points!

2 day obedience trial with the Corgi!

UDX leg #5!  Lance did amazing in open.  With a few fronts and finishes knocking our score down to what is usually out of placements.  But with some bad luck of others, Lance managed to get 2nd for another 2 OTCH points!  Heeling was really nice with a much more enthusiastic fast time than recent trials, and the first about turn was good.

Biggest happiness for me is another held sit stay.  After last saturday's failure he has been seeming to start stressing over it again.  We did lots of little tiny sit stays this past week for huge rewards.  Still not sure what long term plan is to help.

In Utility Lance was very squirrley!  Very nice go outs, but 2 no sits.  I should have given him another cue to sit on the 2nd one but I froze.  Signals went well but his about turns were a bit wore again.  He punched me on the recall and then decided not to do the finish.  Corgi smirk.

Big pro in utility was his continuation of a happy down on the signals and also keeping eye contact with me on the glove pivots.

Pretty good run in open.  A little more corginess than the day before as he was bordering on forging on the heeling and added a bonus woof as he did the drop on recall.  Really good finishes for hte most parts but off on most fronts.

Did his sit again!

In utility his brain fell out.  Go outs were first and like the day before Lance didn't sit on the first cue.  This time I was ready with the 2nd verbal right away.  But even on the 2nd go out Lance still didn't sit on the first cue and waited for the 2nd!  On gloves Lance was busy staring at the crowd and stood put as I pivoted to face #1.  With his back turned to me I still managed to send him out and he did actually get the glove!  And then bobbled the pickup, twice, in his enthusiasm.  Heeling was pretty good but Lance was checking out, very briefly, quite a bit.  I barely got the stand cue in as he chose that moment to check out.  But he did stay and remained in a stand as I gave the stay cue and walked away.  Then he must have doubted himself as he was already sitting as I got to the other end and turned around :(  So no UDX leg for us.  Finishes were mostly spot on, and even his fronts were better.

I still can't believe how great he's been doing this year.  Lance is now halfway towards his UDX, has 162 out of 200 points towards his Obedience Master, and actually has 11 OTCH points!

Things on the to do list include:
1.  Working hard on fronts, especially with an object in his mouth.  Lance seems to have gotten worse about the severe angles in practice, so polishing that up should help the straight approaches in trials.
2. Finishes- although I'm really happy with the progress the nose touch has given us.
3. About turns- not sure how to replicate the loss of eye contact and thus the wideness on the abouts.  I've very recently started doing about, immediate side step right in practice to see if that will help.
4. Stays.  No clue how to fix Lance's confidence issue.  So far I'm just continuing doing them often, with food behind him.

Keeping an eye on:
1. The no sitting on the go outs.  Have not replicated this in practice or even the rare match we go to.  This may be his *new* issue, if the ones below are really fixed!
2. Glove pivots, auto marking- Hasn't done this the last 7 days of trials!
3. Downing on the drop on recall and the signals- doing good so far!



Gracie level 4 graduate, and dog parks

Gracie passed the level 4 test at the organization yesterday!  She likely could have squeezed by last month, but a month more of practice made her very solid on all items.

The only one I wasn't sure she would do was the go visit to another person.  I'm sad to say that Gracie has never actually had any practice in doing this to anyone besides myself.  I have worked a lot on lowering her head to a chair and keeping it there with distractions, but never actually had a person sit there.  It goes to show what a dog can problem solve if you have the foundations in place!

We've also been taking a tour of dog parks the last few weeks.  Lance and Gracie have been helping me find a dog park suitable for the Toller.  That means a park that consists mainly of trails and easy to avoid larger open areas where people might be throwing balls.  Vito is just so ball obsessive that he glues onto anybody who has a ball and Toller Screams loudly.  People do not appreciate this.

While I don't plan on going to dog parks very often, the opportunity to be off leash and explore is something I miss giving my dogs.  We found 1 park that fits Vito's needs but with the long drive we haven't been to it in over a year.  At least the 2 normal dogs have been having a blast exploring new places.  And we're doing our best to avoid the actual dogs at dog parks.

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